Su­perb sea­watch­ing with some great cliff sites and caves

Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding -

TStaffa lies about six miles west of the Isle of Mull and is only half a mile long and a quar­ter of a mile wide. It has an area of 82 acres and the high­est point is 42m above sea level and the cliff top path that runs around its cir­cum­fer­ance is about two miles in length. Now in the care of the Na­tional Trust for Scot­land, the main at­trac­tion for bird­watch­ers are Puffins, Kit­ti­wakes, Shags and gulls that nest that on the is­land, and the sur­round­ing wa­ters pro­vide good spot­ting for nu­mer­ous other seabirds in­clud­ing Eiders, Ful­mars and divers, Grey Seals, dol­phins, and this coast’s spe­cial­ity, the world’s sec­ond largest fish, the Bask­ing Shark. Al­to­gether, you’re look­ing at about 40 species of bird to be spot­ted on a day’s visit, es­pe­cially if you com­bine a trip here with the nearby Tresh­nish Isles. Although un­in­hab­ited, Staffa is a pop­u­lar draw for tourists want­ing to see Fin­gal’s Cave, with its dis­tinc­tive colum­nar basalt en­trance (the sub­ject, of course, of Felix Men­delssohn’s famed Hebrides Over­ture, com­posed in 1830). A con­crete/rocky path runs from the land­ing stage to the cave and there’s a view­ing plat­form at the en­trance for watch­ing the Cor­morants and Shags and other birds fly­ing to the cave. A short flight of steps next to the land­ing stage gives you ac­cess to the is­land. The nat­u­ral veg­e­ta­tion has now re­turned and it’s a good idea to look for the smaller birds such Whin­chat and Stonechat in the ground cover. Puffins are best seen north­wards of the land­ing stage where you sit above the nests and watch the birds fly only yards away from you. On our visit, we also got Gan­net, Manx Shear­wa­ter, Guille­mot, Ra­zor­bill and Great Skua off­shore, and the pos­si­bil­ity of pick­ing up a White-tailed Ea­gle dur­ing the day is high. STEVE NEW­MAN

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